Album Premiere: Ruler’s ‘Winning Star Champion’

Seattle music scene utility player Matt Batey steps into the spotlight with his new indie rock album for Barsuk Records.

Matt Batey is a familiar face in the Seattle music scene. As a professional touring musician, he’s taken turns providing lead guitar and vocal harmonies for acts like Cataldo and Rocky Votolato (often with healthy doses of humorous stage banter). He’s just a consummate glue guy that makes Seattle concerts better.

When Batey isn’t helping other musicians out, he’s working on his own music, which he records and performs as Ruler. And with Winning Star Champion—Ruler’s debut LP on Barsuk Records (out May 25)—Batey steals the spotlight. It turns out the lead role suits him just as well as all his supporting parts.

Winning Star Champion delivers the type of polished, intelligent, and catchy indie rock that’s become the Barsuk’s trademark—fitting seamlessly alongside labelmates like Nada Surf, Chris Staples, and Death Cab for Cutie. Over bright and unpretentious guitar rock tracks, Batey sings with the urgent yelp of an underdog (as the chorus of the title track goes, “I’m the winning star champion of fucking up / like a high school rebel running out of luck”). During the album’s less scrappy moments, Batey transitions into melancholy, as on “Get To You,” which reflects on an always-ending relationship. The instrumental backing is bolstered by an all-star cast of Batey’s Seattle music pals, including Michael Lerner (Telekinesis), Eric Anderson (Cataldo), and Eric Howk (Portugal. The Man).

Take an exclusive first listen to Winning Star Champion before it arrives in stores and on digital platforms this Friday.

Ruler (aka Matt Batey). Photo by Lauren Max

Ruler (aka Matt Batey). Photo by Lauren Max

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